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Just a meandering soul sharing my backyard. Visit my Flickr page too! www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/

Monday, March 29, 2010

Escaping the Weather

Sunday I knew I wanted to get out to some new territory. I thought that Dog Mountain at the west end of Columbia Gorge was a nice prospect. Saturdays forecast for changing weather and winds eliminated that venue. I had no choice but to go where it was almost certain to be fair skies, Yakima.

Specifically the Cowiche Canyon. I had heard about this site late last year and put it on my list of places to visit. Saturday, on of my fellow field trip members mentioned that she had been to Snow Mountain Ranch the weekend before. I had not heard of this venue so I checked it out on line.

The Cowiche Canyon Conservancy http://www.cowichecanyon.org/ has two properties with about 14 miles of trails. Both are within 30 minutes of downtown Yakima.

I arrived very early to the Cowiche Canyon trail head. The trail quickly entered a narrow deep canyon of lichen covered basalt.

The footing was gravel and there were several bridges spanning the small, fast running river. Here is a beaver dam. I found freshly chewed stumps and branches.

It was fairly quiet but I did encounter folks out running or walking with their dogs. It feels like the canyon is just waking up to Spring. There was an abundance of Golden Currant blooming.

Further in the canyon where the rock walls give way to open slopes , Balsamroot is in abundance. I found few bird But was thrilled to hear Canyon Wrens high up in the cliffs. I also watched one curious Marmot keeping watch on a couple walking their dogs.

One unique feature is a spur trail leading up to the Wilridge Winery, a small organic vineyard. There are picnic areas and room to ramble. http://www.tastingroomyakima.com/ I did not venture all the way up but I will certainly put a hike and picnic on my list of must do for a pretty warm Spring day. I need to return to this canyon after a few weeks to allow the flowers and birds to wake up.

I drove further out from the canyon to Snow Mountain. This recent acquisition was a cattle ranch and there is ample evidence of cattle on the trails in the form of foot prints, pies and one interesting salt lick.

I was greeted near the parking area by a lovely row of Garry Oak and one very busy Gray Jay. Oak trees are not widely common in our state and the Gray Jays favor them above all. I am sorry this bird was so skittery I would have liked to have taken a picture of him gathering acorns. (I have a soft spot for acorns dating back to first grade.. Thank you Mrs Hamlin)

I immediately encountered a new form of Desert Parsley, Columbia Desert Parsley. Bold and purple with lush greenery.

I headed inward and upward and soon found a signboard that pointed the way. The longest loop trail is a little over 6 miles. I would have liked a bit clearer trail markers as the cattle have made quite a number of "stock trails" and navigation was challenging. I doubted that I would have enough time to take in a full 6 miles. Once I got up in elevation I knew I would not. I was at full stop taking it in.

Here there were carpets of wildflowers. Everywhere Spring Gold ( which I fist meet at Washington Park) and Sage Violets.

Happy little discoveries of Low Pussytoes,

Blue Violets ,

Cushion Phlox,

were new for the year. I even found mystery flowers that I am seeking some input on. There are far more species of flower than I have space to post pictures of. I posted them to my Flickr page. www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/

The treasures on the ground were consuming my attention , but I did try to look out and appreciate the grand view all around.

Right after noon the weather clearly started to change. I decided that I best make my way back down and I choose the riparian (waterside) trail. Clearly this low wet area is still waking up as well. The little marsh was only supporting a blackbird or two. The deciduous trees are just starting to bud. It looks like it will be a good place to find a surprise or two next time I visit.

I stopped for a late lunch and as I hit the road it started sprinkling. By the time I reached Ellensburg it was pouring like I have seen in that area. The rain persisted over the pass and forecast is now for more rain and wind, along with much needed snow in the mountains.

I think I need to take a stay away weekend to do justice to Snow Mountain/Cowiche Canyon and the Umptanum Trail in the Yakima River Canyon. It is easy to have two full days in this area if I leave work Friday and drive over.

You can read more about CCC here


So many places so little time.


  1. More beautiful pictures. The sage violets are just wonderful. I wish we had them around here.

  2. Ahh but I suspect you are going to find plenty of native violets in your woods very very soon

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